The first agenda item in which a variance is requested deals with the marina / restaurant / parking area at 400 West Cocoa Beach Causeway.
The owner of the property is requesting a variance on building two outdoor seating areas – one on the first floor and one on the second – overlooking the Banana River. The deck areas will allow an additional 90 patrons on the decks to the 160 person capacity of the restaurant on the inside.
The first issue is the parking for the restaurant. The area around the restaurant does not have enough parking spaces as required by the city codes. That means the restaurant will have to go elsewhere for parking. They are trying to negotiate a parking agreement with the AT&T lot next door to allow parking that would supplement that of the restaurant and bring the parking requirement up to code.
In February 2016, the same owner came to the Board of Adjustments, asked for an received variances to the set backs for the buildings. Why would someone who needed more parking take parking spaces away? Parking was an issue back in 2016 yet the owner said he could make it work. Now that same owner is coming back again with a plan to increase the seating which would require more parking. Our question is “did the owner have the plans for the decking in his head when he applied for the first variance?” If he did, it seems somewhat disingenuous to come back and now say “that space I requested to be used to increase the size of my restaurant? Well, I want to make the restaurant even bigger.” Didn’t anyone in the Building Department notice the plans for the original building that would have contained the supporting framework for the decks? No one noticed a door on the second floor that went to no where (until you put a deck outside?
There is a letter in the agenda packet from Assistant City Attorney Marsh Segal-George to the Attorney representing the owner which deals with the parking issue. The letter reads, in part:
To resolve the parking issues, the City is requesting either a Long-Term Shared Parking Agreement, or Proof of Ownership of the AT&T parking lot your client is attempting to acquire, before the City can issue a Certificate of Occupancy to allow the restaurant / bar to open.
We find this curious to say the least. It seems to us that the agreement or ownership of the lot should be in hand before the variance is issued. That way you don’t get into a spat over “well, we spent all this money, and built it, and people want it, and it looks good, so we should get the variance and be able to use it.”
It just seems out of whack a bit to say “you have to fulfill these conditions after we grant you the variance and after you have completed construction.”
(We also wonder what is the definition of “long term” in the “Long-Term Shared Parking Agreement.” Two years? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? It seems to us that term needs to be defined and defined out in the open. We also wonder what happens if the restaurant property is sold? Does the Long-Term Shared Parking Agreement travel with the sale of the restaurant, or does there have to be a new agreement in place. Lastly, we wonder what would happen if AT&T sold the lot and the new owner built something on that, taking away the parking spaces. Would that close down the decks of the restaurant?)
The second issue is noise from the deck(s). The City is proposing a deal where there is no live music after 7 PM and no “recorded” music after 10 PM. We are assuming that means that the owners will have to abide by the code for noise. The problem is, as we understand it, that no one in Code or Law Enforcement has a decibel meter. (We could be wrong there.) Furthermore, while the noise requirements cover the outside decks, what about music inside that filters out onto the decks? Can a live band play inside the restaurant with the music going out the door?
Once again, we aren’t sure that all of the questions that need to be answered have even been asked.
Lights are another concern to people. The City and the owner have agreed to this:
The lower deck of the outdoor seating area is within an enclosed porch area where lighting will be controlled to only what is necessary within the enclosed space. The lighting on the second floor deck will be the minimum necessary for safety and angled downward to only illuminate the upper deck, and will be intended to maintain the ability of patrons to view the water.
We always get leery when agreements are negotiated with nebulous parameters. “Angled downward” means what, exactly? Technically, a light the is angled one degree below the horizon line is “angled downward.” Is that really a standard? As for “lighting will be controlled to only what is necessary within the enclosed space,” can someone please tell us what that means? Who decides what is “necessary?” Who is the arbitrator of what is “necessary” and what qualifications and standards are they going to use?
Generally speaking, we are a group that believes in property rights, but in this case, since the applicant is seeking a second variance on the same property that could have been handled with the first variance, we think there are more questions than answers that have been provided.
We also want to take note of this from the City’s presentation:
While most area citizens are in support of the new restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the water, some have expressed concerns related to outdoor noise.
There are lots of issues with this and we feel at best it is incomplete and at worst, misleading. No one defines what the term “area citizens” means. Does that mean people within 100 feet of the restaurant? Five hundred feet? Within Cocoa Beach? Within Brevard County? Once again, the City is making a definitive statement using undefined terms.
Secondly, the City seems to be relying on the number of letters and correspondence received on the issue. In the agenda item addendum, the City lists the people from who they received correspondence and whether they supported or oppose the project.
There are twenty one (21) people listed as supporting the project and ten (10) against it. That’s over two to one. Two of the writers against the project caught our eye. Both reference being members of condo associations that are near the project. It would be interesting to see or hear if the authors of the letters are speaking for the other condo owners or just themselves. If they are speaking for the other condo owners as part of a condo association, the ratio flip from being 2-1 for to at least 2-1 against.
(We don’t like the idea of people being “for” or “against” a project being a major consideration. It reeks of “I got mine and that’s all I care about. If the City wants to use that standard of “whoever can organize the best” and “get out the people” in determining whether a variance should be issued, that’s just crazy in our mind. Objective, not subjective standards should apply.)
The second item for a variance is located at 124 South Orlando Avenue, which was the home of the old NAPA Automotive Parts store.
The owner says in his application that he is looking to open an “independent motorcycle and automotive shop” that will sell “motorcycle and automotive parts and accessories.” The shop will do “service and repair work, custom fabrication and powder coating of parts for and on motorcycles, ATV’s and automobiles.”
The main concern we have heard is from people who are concerned about noise.
We believe the noise issue is dependent on exactly the type of work the shop will be doing.
There is a difference between “customization” and “customizing.” “Customizing” is usually when you take parts and bolt them on. That’s not going to be louder than the NAPA store that would have used the same air tools a bolt on shop would use.
The “customization” shop is a little different. In those shops, you have craftsmen that form and shape metal using everything from hand tools to massive power tools.
We believe the owner of the property needs to explain a little more clearly as to what his business model entails.
If the business plan is similar to that of the NAPA store, we think it is horribly wrong to make this owner get a variance for the same type of business. It is horribly wrong to add special circumstances to the owner for his business while replacing one shop that did the same thing and while other shops in the city do not have to incur the same costs. We understand the idea of businesses being “grandfathered in,” but some of the conditions are based on looks and serve no real purpose.
For example, the City wants all vehicles to be moved inside overnight. Why? The vehicles will have licenses and can be parked anywhere else in the City. So why pick on this business? Why make a shop essentially try and compete with other shops when they would have to stop working earlier in the day to move the legal vehicles inside the building? Other shop can keep their unfinished or works in progress outside overnight, but not this business? What possible benefit does that serve anyone?
We get tired of the cities putting restrictions on businesses for the sole reason of “not liking the way it looks.”
Here’s a news flash for you: shops that are busy and have cars outside while waiting for parts, etc attract more business – not less. Why do people insist on putting restrictions on businesses that will impede their success for no good reason?
If this business is going to bring in new, heavy industrial part forming machines that can shake the floor and buildings around them, that’s one thing. But to say “we let NAPA do this but we won’t let you do it” is nuts.
The Board is also looking at policies and procedures. Gird your loins for another attack on your rights.